I tried watching Speed Grapher and got three episodes in, which is where I’ve decided to stop and write what I thought about it. It got a lot better after the first episode, and this is also one of those rare times when the anime is improved by its English dub. I think the first episode’s problem was that it was not immediately obvious what the story was about. It succeeds in getting its genre across as a detective noir thriller with contemporary fantasy and/or sci-fi elements initially presented with minimal context. But worse, the main character is introduced as averse to meaningful interactions with other characters. From episode two, this problem is fixed chiefly by Tatami Saiga (the main character) being forced to interact with the second protagonist Kagura Tennōzu.
Kagura is interesting because she provides a commentary about children of the rich and powerful who get abused and exploited by these types of parents. And if you want to know why I found that interesting, I recommend checking out Kidology’s video on Mackenzie Fierceton.
As far as I got, the anime’s plot was that Saiga investigates a weird sex cult of politicians and others, ala Eyes Wide Shut, and is granted his innermost desire by an out-of-it Kagura. And because Saiga can only get a hardon while looking through the lens of his camera, which started with his photographing of a man being shot to death back when he was a war journalist, the gift he receives from Kagura results in him having the ability to destroy anything he takes a photo of.
So yeah, there are some pretty goofy things in Speed Grapher, which is alright; I watch anime for weird things. But the problem with Speed Grapher is that it has these strange elements but takes them way too seriously. Something like Code Geass might be similar, but that was a show that had a fast pace to get away with its own bullshit. Speed Grapher, on the other hand, is slow. It has moments of shock like I wasn’t expecting Kagura’s teacher to betray her by being seduced by Kagura’s mother with money and sex.
Also, I think visually; it was meh. It was animated by studio Gonzo, and their work has always been a mixed bag. It was either the bare minimum for its time, like Samurai 7, or it was mind-blowing fantastic looking, like Last Exile. At least, that’s how I remember them being. In the case of Speed Grapher, I think there was a lot more they could have done with the aesthetic they decided to go with, and you can refer to anime like Boogiepop Phantom, Ergo Proxy, or Kaiji to see what I mean for comparison.
I wouldn’t say I’ve necessarily dropped the show. I can see how it might get entertaining and more meaningful later if I get the patience to give to it despite some of the uncomfortable elements the show introduces that I won’t unpack here. I’ll say, for now, it’s on hold, and others may find it more fun than I did. In the meantime, I’m going to move on to something else. For alternate recommendations, you should check out RIN ~Daughters of Mnemosyne~ provided that the most severe content warnings are of no concern to you. And also Monster.